Saturday, August 1, 2015

Reflection: Matthew 14:1-12

17th Week in Ordinary Time – Matthew 14:1-12

The primary character in today’s Gospel is Herod the tetrarch. Herod had heard many stories about Jesus and he believed that Jesus was John the Baptist raised from the dead. He assumed that Jesus was able to do amazing deeds because he was John the Baptist raised from the dead.

If you remember, Herod had John arrested, put in prison and ultimately put to death. He did all of this because John had criticized Herod for taking his brother’s wife as his concubine. John told Herod that this was unlawful. However, Herod did not listen. He was determined to find a way to “rid himself” of John.

The opportunity came when Herod had a birthday and a grand celebration was planned. During the celebration, Herodias’ daughter danced for Herod and his guests. Herod was so enthralled with her performance that he promised to give her anything she asked for. However, the girl did not know what to ask for. She went to her mother and consulted her. Herodias instructed her daughter to ask for the head of John the Baptist on a platter!

When the girl told Herod that she desired the head of John the Baptist, Herod was dismayed and distressed. However, since he had promised the girl that she could have whatever she wished, (and he had said this in the presence of many guests), he felt bound to do as the girl requested. Thus, he gave the order to have John beheaded. The servants brought John’s head to the girl on a platter. In turn, the girl took John’s head to her mother. Then John’s disciples buried John’s body and went to tell Jesus of John’s death.

Have we ever been “boxed in” and had to do something that we truly did not want to do? Something that we clearly knew was not right? I assume it was not anything nearly as serious as having someone killed to please another person! I wonder what would have happened if Herod had refused to kill John despite the fact that he had promised that he would give Herodias anything she wished for? Some of the people present may have called Herod a liar or a louse for not following through on his promise. However, I hope the majority of people present would have silently applauded and supported his decision.

How often have you told your children not to follow the crowd? Or how often have you schooled yourself not to blindly do as someone else expected you to do? At times in our lives, we do need to stand up for what we believe is right and just. And often, this is not easy. Usually there are people who may strongly disagree with us.

However, if we do as the crowd wants, we may have to live with the guilt and the shame for the rest of our lives. I wonder if for the rest of his life Herod regretted having John beheaded? He knew he had not been strong enough to do what he truly believed was right. Hopefully, he learned from this devastating experience.

Today I invite you to be mindful of your actions, choices and decisions. These all impact others, the community, as well as our own lives. Today may we make thoughtful, loving and righteous decisions. May God grace us with wisdom and insight!

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